Colombia: The Perfect 4 Weeks Itinerary
Creating an ultimate itinerary for a country you've never visited can be challenging. We traveled around Colombia for two months, and now we know the best places where to go and which places are better to skip. Get inspired by our perfect 4-weeks itinerary and enjoy your travels in Colombia.
Colombia is a diverse country. From paradise beaches, mountainous peaks, volcanoes, hilly landscapes, colonial cities, archeological gems, red-hot deserts to famous Colombian coffee, the country has so much to offer that you probably won't be able to take everything in during only one visit. But with our itinerary, you will get the sample of the best places Colombia has to offer.
When traveling in Colombia, you must take into account, that distances between cities are very often vast and it takes time to get from one place to another when traveling by bus.
Some of the roads are unpaved, or they very often wind through the Andes and moreover Colombia as a country is right now in the middle of their infrastructure revolution, it means that there are many reconstructions along the road which can slow down your travels as well. Our average speed by bus was 40 km/h which is overkill. Generally, always count with two hours delay to be safe and on schedule.
The overall safety in Colombia has improved vastly, but still, we recommend to travel during the day if possible and in the cities rather take a taxi.
We tried our best to squeeze all must-visit places into our itinerary, so now, we can only wish you to enjoy your travels!
DAY 1 & 2 & 3: BOGOTA
Bogota, Colombia's capital, is a great place where to start getting to know the country. We recommend to explore Museo del Oro the first day and then walk around Candelaria. The second day, take a free walking tour around Bogota. It is a perfect way how to know history and thoughts of locals better. After, have a coffee and go to the Emerald Museum. The third day, it is time to climb up the Cerro de Monserrate (or take cable car) to get better views of Bogota. Later, you can visit some of the museums in the city on own, watch street performers or look for interesting graffiti on the walls.
Beware of pickpockets, especially on the crowded Carrera 7.
Most of the areas in Bogota are save, the most recommended departments to stay are La Candelaria, Chapinero, Zona Rosa or Zona T.
For more information, check our guide Bogota: the Colombia's capital.
DAY 4 & 5: VILLA DE LEYVA
Only four hours by bus from Bogota lies colonial town, Villa de Leyva. You can find here colonial architecture, one of the biggest squares in South America and the surroundings is just stunning. The other day, you can take a taxi and explore other features in the proximity of Villa de Leyva - Pozos Azules, El Fosil, Convento del Santo Ecce Hommo and El Infiernito.
DAY 6 & 7: SAN GIL & BARICHARA
To get to San Gil, we recommend not to take the bus route we did via Arabuco. From Villa de Leyva take the bus back to Tunja and here switch to a direct bus to San Gil. San Gil is Colombia's adventure capital. Here, you can either do paragliding, rafting, downhill biking, or for not adventurous souls there is an option to explore El Gallineral Natural Park in the heart of San Gil.
Next day, take a short bus ride to another colonial town, Barichara. Strolling around pretty clean streets is welcoming after spending yesterday's night in busy San Gil. We recommend to take a short downhill hike (about 2 hours) to even smaller settlement Guane via traditional route El Camino Real, from Guane, take a jeep back to Barichara and eventually a bus to San Gil.
DAY 8: SANTA MARTA
From San Gil, you can either take a bus to Cartagena, but to us, it made more sense to get to Santa Marta First. You can take a night bus from San Gil to Santa Marta, and although it is going to be a long drive, you will save some time and money for tonight's accommodation. Santa Marta is not an appealing city, and city beaches are rather ugly, but it is a place from where you will get to Tayrona National Park, you can store some of your stuff you don't need in a hotel and also buy some food and drinks in case you want to save some money.
DAY 9 & 10 & 11: TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK
From Santa Marta, take a regular bus to the borders of Tayrona National Park. You can visit the park only on a one day trip, however we think it would be a shame as we rank Tayrona really high among the places we've visited in Colombia. You can relax on pristine beaches, try to spot rare animals in the jungle or do treks to some of the most important archeological sites. All in once, we found Tayrona National Park just stunning. Read our Tayrona NP Ultimate Guide before you go.
Make sure that in the peak season you buy your park permit in advance and also do not forget, that park closes its gate from late January throughout February to gain back sustainability.
DAY 12 & 13: CARTAGENA DE INDIAS
A four hours drive will take you to one of the most important cities in Colombia. The walled city is amazing it is a place where you can easily spend days, what we liked the most were strikingly colorful colonial buildings. Apart from that, you should also visit the famous fort Castillo San Felipe de Barajas or lesser-known Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.
We took some great pictures in Cartagena for inspiration!
DAY 14 &15: MEDELLIN & GUATAPE
Another overnight bus will take you to Medellin, a city with a troubled past and although the city is not somehow beautiful, it is a must-stop when in Colombia. Take a free walking tour to get a sense of the place, use a cable car to Arvi Park (or Comuna 13 if you want) and if there is one museum in Medellin you should visit it should be Museo de la Memoria.
A worthwhile one day trip from Medellin is visiting the colorful town of Guatape and one of the world's largest monoliths Piedra del Penol overlooking flooded dam.
DAY 16: JARDIN
A laidback town, 4 hours from Medellin became our Colombia's favorite. Not advertised in guidebooks, but maybe thanks to it the town has a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. Drink coffee on the main square, stroll colorful streets, take the cable car to get some stunning views, hike in the nearby hills on own or go birdwatching. We hope you will enjoy Jardin as we did.
DAY 17 & 18: SALENTO
From Jardin, it is about 8 hours to get to Salento, a small town in Zona Cafetera. If you start early, you should be able to visit a coffee farm after your arrival. The next day, head to Valle de Cocora, where you can do a five-hour hike through a forest and valley with tall wax palms, national trees of Colombia.
DAY 19 & 20 & 21 & 22: LOS NEVADOS NATIONAL PARK
We must admit, that before we traveled to Colombia, we never heard about this National Park. Yet, we consider it a dark horse and will recommend it to everyone all over again. You don't need to do the long four-days hike as we did (one, two, or three days available), but if time allows, we strongly encourage you to do it. And what can you look forward to? Paramo ecosystem, mountains, volcanoes, and glaciers to name a few.
DAY 23: MANIZALES
Because your trek finished in Manizales, take one day off here as Manizales is a pretty city with beautiful surroundings. You can either relax here or take a one-day trek to the nearby hills if you don't have enough (you can book a tour which suits your need in every hotel in the city).
DAY 24: MANIZALES - NEIVA - TATACOA DESERT
Leave Manizales and head to Neiva and if possible jump on a jeep and get to Tatacoa Desert the same day.
DAY 25: TATACOA DESERT
Tatacoa desert is the second largest desert in Colombia (the largest one is far north, and it is a bit complicated to reach it). Although it is not technically desert, it definitely feels as it was. Take a hike in the red desert, grey desert (where you can also take a dip in an artificial swimming pool) and in the evening, go stargazing.
DAY 26 & 27: SAN AGUSTIN
San Agustin is one of the most important archeological sites in Colombia. Visit the Archeological Park on the day of your arrival to the town, and the other day, you can either take a horseback riding tour around the town with some notable stops or take a jeep tour to see waterfalls and statues around San Agustin.
DAY 28: BOGOTA
Take an overnight bus to Bogota (from San Agustin, you must get to Pitalito first). Here, your journey of exploring Colombia ends.
Colombia is a beautiful country, and we hope our itinerary will help you with your travels.